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Juana West

Environmental Health and Safety Manager

Juana West Environmental Health and Safety Manager

Juana West knows what it is like to feel the challenge of being a young female in the construction industry.

But the 26-year-old Environmental Health and Safety Manager for Higgins largest region, the Manawatu, continues to prove that passion and self-belief can see your career start to fly.

Health and safety was Juana’s passion when she joined Higgins as an environmental health and safety advisor two years ago.

Since then, big improvements in the company’s safety culture have flowed, with Juana helping to achieve significant increase in near miss, incident and observation reporting, allowing the team to offer employees early intervention with injuries, identify trends and put solutions in place to prevent re-occurrence.

“At Higgins, we believe all injuries are preventable and I stand by that company belief. Coming into a business that has a strong belief that everyone should go home safely makes the job easy.”

Juana also co-developed the Higgins’ lower north island wellness calendar, focusing on healthy habits to improve and prioritise physical and mental health. The calendar included a regional fitness challenge, encouraging people to exercise daily and eat healthy food. In the first year, 25 people signed up with an average weight loss of 5kgs per person.  

“Encouraging construction workers to make healthy choices, helping improve overall mental health, is extremely important because the construction industry loses nearly one person each week to suicide.  So the wellness calendar focusing on healthy habits has an industry-wide benefit,” Juana says.

Two years on, Juana was promoted to EHS Manager Manawatu, responsible for health and safety of approximately 320 Higgins staff, multiple subcontractors, across the region. Her work involves daily promotion of safe working standards, implementing new roll-outs and industry standards and collaborating with experts to think of practical, yet safe and effective ideas to improve the way teams work.

She says she is used to being one of the only female in the room among her predominantly male co-workers, but enjoys the challenge and would love more women to join the industry and believes its an industry that women can thrive in.

“Being a young female in the industry, I don’t necessarily walk onto a construction site and have instant respect. I have to prove myself with my knowledge and ability to listen.  Although this was a challenge, having Higgins believe in my abilities and walking the talk has enabled me to work with my team to create a positive culture change.”

Career-wise, Juana has already exceeded her expectations by achieving the manager’s role by age 25.

“I’m grateful to Higgins for the support, knowledge and constant upskilling I’ve received. I love keeping people safe and knowing I can keep developing my skills to be able to succeed in this.”

Juana completed Fletcher Construction’s ‘women to leadership’ mentorship programme in 2023, which she found invaluable in her transition to her new management role. “The industry-wide connections I gained were also so beneficial and I learned a lot about setting high standards as a leader and the principle that every day you work is your CV.”

Juana says her career growth so far has also been the result of backing herself and believing in her abilities and strengths. “I have self-confidence and don’t mind speaking up when I believe in something,” she says.

“It’s often said that promotion is based on your years of experience. However, I got my promotion based on the potential people saw in me. Higgins took a chance on me and it’s awesome the business did that,” she says.

“Higgins has been tremendously supportive of me and my career development. I strongly encourage other young females to believe in themselves and to strive for the best in this industry.”

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Kylie Wech

Project Manager

Kylie Wech Project Manager

When Kylie Wech started working in Civil Construction, she had a role in administration – she was the ‘tea lady’ as she puts it. What Kylie didn’t realise, was that role would set her up for a lifetime career in civil construction. “In the beginning, I saw the role as a means to an end. Very quickly, I decided I needed to turn my job into a career.”

Kylie’s made that career happen by working her way up through the industry, trying her hand at a number of different roles, finally landing herself as one of our highly-respected Project Managers.

She’s a big advocate for women in the industry, and says anyone keen on trying out civils should give it a go. “This industry has given me so many opportunities to try different avenues and pathways. The civil infrastructure industry has so many options, it will adapt to your needs as you adapt to your role.”

Levi Muller
Levi Muller

Engineering Cadet

Levi Muller Engineering Cadet

If you want to become an engineer, we can help you learn while you’re on the job through a cadetship. That support could help you earn a Diploma in Engineering – or even a qualification in Quantity Surveying or Construction Management.

You’d be joining other cadets like Levi Muller who recently joined us at Higgins as an Engineering Cadet. Before leaving school, Levi’s school approached our Early in Career Programme Lead Sarah McKenzie who organised a one-to-one visit at one of our projects where he was introduced to Tristan Paget, a Project Manager who also followed this pathway. This ignited a genuine spark in Levi and by showing his engagement and motivation, he was welcomed to the Higgins team in February after leaving school.

Levi’s been working with the team on the Rangiuru Business Park Interchange and is also studying for his Diploma in Engineering part time. This requires him to attend polytech one day a week which is supported by Higgins. He’s even being paid to attend tech, and accessing to our Employee Educational Fund for course costs. Higgins also facilitates a guided programme that enables Levi to learn on the job, whilst contributing to a high-profile project in his hometown.

So far, Levi’s loving his new role. "It's really hard to put a pinpoint on what I enjoy the most because I just love my job so much, going to work and seeing my team every day is a highlight."

If you’re keen to join the Green Team like Levi, contact

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Michael Valente

Country Manager

Michael Valente Country Manager

Michael Valente swung wide the door to new opportunities in paradise when he moved country to start a new chapter in his construction career with Higgins, Fiji.

That was back in 2020 when he joined the Fletcher Family from his home country of South Africa, where had had owned a civil engineering company for 19 years, and was later a senior project manager specialising in all aspects of pipeline and road construction.

The opportunity with Higgins as the Suva Manager represented an exciting opportunity for a lifestyle change for his family.  The opportunity to step into a bigger role saw the family relocate to Nadi when he became the Fiji Fletcher Higgins Country Manager in 2023.

Based in the head office in Lomolomo, Nadi, Michael oversees just under 700 staff, making Fletcher the biggest construction company in Fiji with a busy pipeline of work that has quickly ramped up post-Covid.

Michael is responsible for maintaining client relationships, sourcing new work as well as optimisation of existing projects.  Some of these include refurbishment of the Westin Hotel, four zones of roading maintenance contracts, completion of the Kings Road Upgrade, construction of nine critical bridges and work on the Nadi International Airport runway.

He visits Fletcher Construction’s head office in Auckland, New Zealand several times a year for senior leadership meetings and enjoys the close connection with the team there. “There’s no challenge too big that we can’t find a solution to, whether it’s health and safety or technology; we can draw on a wealth of knowledge and the company’s deep history and experience,” he says.

“Fletcher is a good employer and a caring company that looks after its employees.”

Michael promotes a strong safety culture, and has particularly enjoyed being part of the progress Higgins has made on the workplace health and safety journey over the last few years. “Our health and safety standards really set us apart here in the Pacific and I strongly believe in the philosophy of getting our people home safely every day. It’s rewarding to see the results we have made in standardising safety standards across the business and seeing the results of the way we care for our people.”

Although he’s no longer in his home country, Michael says he loves being part of the Fletcher family in the Pacific.

Fletcher’s graduate programmes and training and development support makes it an attractive employer in the Pacific, but has its downsides when staff rise through the ranks and get job opportunities in New Zealand and Australia.

“But on the other hand, it demonstrates the strong opportunities we offer and that once you spend meaningful time working with us, there are opportunities for career progression across the Pacific.”

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Ning Yan

Network Engineer

Ning Yan Network Engineer

Higgins network engineer Ning Yan is a great example that many career paths can lead to construction.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in Management at Shenyang Normal University in China, Ning entered the workforce as an accounts payable clerk before moving to New Zealand and completing a Diploma in Civil Engineering at Wintec in Hamilton.

“I really wanted to work in the construction industry as I was drawn to the challenge of working to bring a project to completion where you can see the tangible achievements,” Ning says.

Two years after starting with Higgins as a graduate engineer, Ning was promoted to her current role as a network engineer for the state highway network in eastern Waikato, focused on delivering  the annual plan and variation programmes, and programming for the operational teams for the state highways on which Higgins has maintenance contracts.

It’s a role offering plenty of challenge and variety, with a complex state highway network and challenging weather events in this part of the country.

Although Ning is mostly office-based in Morrinsville, she enjoys opportunities to visit Higgins teams in the field and gain site experience and area initiatives to improve roading safety.

Past work in accounts payable set her in good stead for her sharp focus on project detail. “I enjoy trying to make things as accurate as possible and want to achieve high quality. I really enjoy learning new things and skill from my colleagues, clients and subcontractors,” she says.

As she looks to further her career, Higgins provides great support and training in areas such as NZIHT short courses, project management, traffic management and safety leadership. She is currently a member of Fletcher Construction’s ‘Achieving Women’ programme, supporting women to rise through the ranks at Fletcher Construction.

She hopes her path will encourage more women into careers in construction.

“Even if you have come from a different background, you can still work in construction and enjoy a challenging and fulfilling career,” Ning says.

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Peter Capilitan

Specialist Operator

Peter Capilitan Specialist Operator

When Peter Capilitan arrived from the Philippines in 2018, his surveying qualification wasn’t recognised in New Zealand. Unable to work in his chosen field, he took a role with Higgins as a grader operator.

Last year, his team encouraged him to use the Targeted Training and Apprenticeship Fund (TTAF) to pay for a surveying qualification that would be recognised in New Zealand. He’s rightfully very proud of his achievement!

Fletcher Construction Early in Career Programme Lead Sarah McKenzie made inquiries to help set Peter up with Connexis. “Not only has he been motivated to persevere despite English being his second language, he has really demonstrated Fletcher Values of Better Together and Being Bold.”

Peter says getting the qualification helped boost his career and provides a significant advantage in future endeavours. "I am beyond blessed with the opportunities I've been given to reach my dream of becoming a surveyor. I'm ready for more projects."

As TTAF is no longer available, our people can access the Fletcher Building Employee Educational Fund (EEF), which helps fund the cost of tuition and development programmes for career-related studies.

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Sara Scott

Contracts Manager

Sara Scott Contracts Manager

Sara Scott has grown professionally with Higgins. She first joined the team as a part-time traffic management engineer through her final year of her Bachelor of Engineering. That led to a full-time role on the City Edge project, holding several key engineering roles before progressing to her current role as contracts manager of the East Waikato NOC (network outcomes contract). She started this role as she returned from maternity leave, and now leads a team of 40, plus subcontractors. Much of the focus in Sara’s role has been returning the state highway network to a resilient place after Cyclone Gabrielle, balanced with renewals delivery across the region.

Driven by a love for the construction industry and always hungry to progress, Sara says there has been strong support from Higgins as she has stepped up to new roles.  This year, she’s participating in Fletcher Construction’s Women to Leadership mentoring programme and hopes to inspire others to strike the right balance between commitment to career and family.

“I recognise I can inspire and support women within the industry and I think it’s our responsibility as the next generation of women to improve the industry for those following us. Our challenges are different than they were 20 years ago and will continue to change with time,” she says.

“This means supporting my team to take ownership of their time to support a healthy home - work balance. I model this to give people permission to fully commit to their job, while also carving out time for family.”

Committed to continuous professional growth, Sara has also completed her first year of an MBE earning her a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management Studies.

She also participates in Fletcher Construction’s mentor programme involving regular catch-ups to support and guide new graduates to navigate their careers.

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Shayden Taumata

Specialist Operator

Shayden Taumata Specialist Operator

One year on from the devasting impact of Cyclone Gabrielle, Shayden Taumata remembers trying to clear her way through piles of slash higher than the grader machine she was driving to restore vital road links in the Bay of Plenty.

“We came through after the cyclone to clear accessways for families trapped in their homes - it was really cool to play a part in getting the community back on its feet.”

The 29-year-old machine operator and foreperson from Rotorua was exceptionally proud to play a part in the cyclone recovery effort, where it was all hands on deck to clear the roads and get transport links up and running again.

It’s extreme weather events like those that keep her team on its toes and doing what it does best; responding to road closures caused by big slips or weather damage, she says.

“It’s a buzz to go out and open up the roads to keep communities safe.”

Shayden’s career in civil construction began back in early 2018 when she moved to Gisborne and, after contacting a recruitment agent looking for temporary work, started a job in road maintenance with a local company the very next day.

Following a stint working as a traffic controller, Shayden progressed to become Leading Hand for a construction crew. Along the way she picked up a Site Traffic Management Supervisor (STMS) qualification, Class One, Two and Three driving licences and a Wheels, Tracks and Rollers endorsement, seizing the opportunity to develop her skills.

Completing  a Māori leadership programme gave Shayden extra confidence and skills that helped her move into a more senior position, as well as kindling a drive to set her sights on further personal development and study a civil engineering degree in the future.

Moving to Rotorua in 2023 saw her take the next step in her road maintenance career by applying for a role supervising a pavement renewal crew with her current employer Higgins, taking on a different role and a set of new challenges in a different region.

Shayden says she enjoys the variety of facing fresh challenges every day and constantly learning new skills as it means she never gets bored.

“I love travelling the countryside, meeting new people and there always being something new to learn – every job’s different.”

She now leads five road rehabilitation operators in her team plus a traffic management team that provides essential support. Between them they handle earthworks and road repairs throughout the eastern Bay of Plenty, sometimes driving two hours to get to a job.

A typical day will start with a morning meeting with all crews involved to discuss the requirements for the job they’re working on that day, co-ordinating her traffic management team and getting everyone’s input on any safety issues that might arise before setting out on the day’s work. Her experience in different job roles, and ability to operate heavy machinery from 30-tonne excavators to graders and trucks, gives her the edge when it comes to leading her team and training them up.

After the success she has experienced in road maintenance Shayden encourages more females to get into the industry.

“Females can do just as well in the road maintenance industry as males: they’re particular about making sure jobs are completed to a high standard, keeping sites tidy and looking after their equipment – it would be great to see more of them come through.”

She says road maintenance would suit anyone who enjoys learning new skills and likes the idea of being able to develop their career quickly.

“You can be whatever you want to be and play whatever role you want in this industry, if you keep going with it the options are pretty much never-ending.”

Shayden's story courtesy of EPIC Work NZ:

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